The government of Trinidad and Tobago did not give careful consideration to the ‘Decriminalization’ of Marijuana

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Akilah Holder is an author and social commentator who resides in Trinidad and Tobago. She is a former journalist and a former adjunct lecturer of political science. She also has a blog which can be read at akilahholder.blogspot.com

By Akilah Holder

It has to be that the government of Trinidad and Tobago takes the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago for fools. It has to be. Otherwise, why else would it make the false claims about marijuana use that it has been making?

The latest minister of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM), to claim that the govenrment acted wisely in decriminalizing marijuana and considered carefully its decriminalization, (partial legalization, in reality, but they had to couch it in language that would not alarm the populace), is the minister of health, Terrence Deyalsingh.

At a recent visit to the Just Because Foundation Ward at the Wendy Fitzwilliam Children’s Hospital in the Eric Williams Sciences Complex, Mt Hope, minister Deyalsingh commented, “At the end of the day I think the government, led by the prime minister, took a very considered, careful view of how we would treat this issue, which is not only an issue of marijuana – decriminalisation of 30 grams and under, but it’s a social justice issue.'” Nonsense. Complete, total and absolute nonsense.

If the government of Trinidad and Tobago, had, in fact, taken “a very considered, careful view of how,” it “would treat this issue,” it would have never been legalized.  “A very considered, careful view” would have involved taking into consideration the fact that cannabis, according to transnationalinstitute.com, remains under the most restrictive categories of UN treaties on drugs – the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol; the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971 and the Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.

Under these treaties, the site explains,  “The substances in themselves were not prohibited, but their production and trade were subjected to strict controls in order to limit their use to medical and scientific purposes.” Not for recreational purposes.

Moreover, any nation that has legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, has, in effect, flouted international law. Trinidad and Tobago is a party to all three of the UN drug treaties. It is, therefore, through its partial legalization of marijuana, in contravention of international law.

Notably, this drug does not remain on the restrictive schedules in the UN convention by chance. It is there because concerns remain about the addictive nature of this drug.

Consider that American psychiatrist, Robert L. Dupont, asserted in a 2016 article on newyorktimes.com, that “It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of heroin users have used marijuana (and many other drugs) not only long before they used heroin but while they are using heroin. Like nearly all people with substance abuse problems, most heroin users initiated their drug use early in their teens, usually beginning with alcohol and marijuana.” Not even in the United States, in fact, where some states have fully legalized marijuana, has the drug been legalized on a national level.

On that account, it can safely be deduced that the government of Trinidad and Tobago did not give careful consideration to the “decriminalization” of marijuana, but made a foolish and hasty decision.

As one religious leader in the country asserted last week, the government was bullied into passing this law. For careful consideration of this issue would have proven that it was a bad idea, especially for a government that cannot get a grip of crime, has not yet instituted the drugalizer, and has a lousy mental health care system.

Significantly, the PNM administration, throughout the course of debates on this issue, has used as its main argument to win favor for the Dangerous Drug Amendment Act, which “decriminalized” marijuana, the contention that the act would bring social justice to the many black offenders imprisoned because of cannabis use; however, the establishment of drug courts would have been a better and more cost-effective option.

A ten-year study done by the National Institute of Justice in the US of the Multnomah County drug court in Portland, Oregon, found that drug courts “reduced recidivism among program participants…” and resulted in “significantly lower costs.” For this reason, drug courts would have been a better option; for drugs, offenders would have, also, the opportunity to be rehabilitated. The rest of this study’s findings can be read at nij.ojp.gov.

The fact that a drug court pilot program was launched by the Trinidad and Tobago Judiciary in 2012, but to date, has not yet been fully implemented lends support to the assertion that the passage of this act was not carefully considered, but hastily done – clearly in an effort to pacify a small sector of society with financial clout.

 

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